nivo total station teodolit hiperaktivite The Non-Consumer Advocate Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Page 4

Non-Consumer Fails

by Katy on March 6, 2014 · 33 comments


Lettuce Fail

I strive to be frugal and aware of packaging waste and deliberate with my daily life choices. However, even I, The Non-Consumer Advocate fail with my efforts every now and then. Sometimes even all day long.

Perfection is a fallacy.

I’ve written about how much I love that Petco sells scoop-your-own cat litter, which was a fantastic zero waste alternative to the thick bags that our Costco cat litter had been coming in. However, I was 100% happy with being able to scoop our own litter, but only 0% impressed with how well the product actually performed. Clumping cat litter is supposed to hold together when activated by urine, but the Petco brand did not. This meant that our upstairs hallway always smelled like cat pee. I tried the product for at least six months, but finally admitted defeat and went back to transitionally packaged litter. I hate packaging waste, but I really hate infusing my home with eau de kitty toilette. FAIL!

Pinterest is full of beautifully photographed images of lettuce stumps resprouting on people’s windowsills. I’ve tried this method with scallions, (worked beautifully, but since scallions give me heartburn I never repeated the experiment) but my efforts to regrow lettuce were a complete and utter failure. No, let me rephrase that. My efforts were a rotten and disgusting failure! First off the stump shrank and was on the verge of falling into the water, (which is why I poked it with skewers) and then horrible little brown lettuce leaves sprouted and then stopped growing. Yes, they grew, but only to the size that Barbie and Ken would approve of. FAIL!

My mother bought me a two month gym membership for Christmas so that we could work out together. (Building strength around her new knee for her and general fitness for me.) I have gone precisely 0.0 times since getting the initial orientation. FAIL!

The last example of a Non-Consumer fail is from the Facebook group, but it garnered enough responses to be included here.

“I have a coworker who had plumbing problems this weekend. It involved the toilet (and thankfully she didn’t elaborate). She said she had to use all her towels to clean it up and then threw them all away because she’d never want to put her face to them again and that she’d just buy all new ones.”

Yes. This woman threw away her towels because they got poopy! The Facebook responses ranged from:

“We’d be broke if we threw our towels out every time some ‘very earthy and organic’ substance were found on them.”

To:

“Even though they can be cleaned and sanitized, I would still think of the nastiness and gag everytime I tried to use one after that. Plus I wouldn’t even want to deal with touching them and trying to get them into the washer, especially if they were dripping wet with nastiness. Much easier to toss into a trash bag and be done with them.”

The general consensus was that a sanitizing wash in hot water could have saved the towels, but even if they were permanently stained, they could have been downgraded to pet towels or rags. Everyone had a strong opinion on this one!

Have you experienced any recent Non-Consumer fails? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 33 comments }


Vintage Ball canning jar

  1. I drove to Costco yesterday to cash my annual American Express Costco rebate. I was handed $322.23, and walked out with a jug of honey and a 42-pound bag of cat litter. I also topped up the gas tank, even though it only needed five gallons. The price of gas is always cheaper at Costco, so even a few gallons of gas is worth it. Needless to say, I partook of the free food samples and then walked past the food court.
  2. I stopped at a few thrift shops on the drive home and picked up a couple of items. I bought a 29¢ antique Ball canning jar and a cheap stack of Noritake Marguerite plates, which I will resell on eBay. How did I know to buy these bargain plates? I did a Completed Listings search on eBay through my iPhone.
  3. I took a pair of hand-me-down Lucky Brand pants that were too long for my son and hemmed them. My older son does not like jeans or anything tight, so finding him pants is a never ending struggle. He now has a free brand new looking pair of pants that he’s willing to wear, and they’re even custom tailored!
  4. I snuggled up with son the other day to watch a library DVD of Argo. The movie was fantastic, (although I may have added a few extra grey hairs from the dramatic tension.) I love that my sons are now old enough to watch adult movies. I can’t get enough of all those free library movies!
  5. I picked up a free tub of chocolate chip cookie dough from Papa Murphy’s while walking home from the grocery store. We have a fat stack of these free coupons which we use infrequently enough to keep it as a treat. (They give them out at Timbers games, and my husband’s vegan friends always give us theirs.) We baked a dozen last night as a treat, and the second dozen for today’s school lunches.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been doing?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Reading glasses

I started wearing reading glasses a few months ago. And me being me (i.e. cheap) I picked up a pair at The Dollar Tree store.

They work perfectly for my needs.

I briefly considered picking up a couple different pairs, as they were so bleeding cheap, but instead I decided to stick with the single pair and just be careful with them. I rescued a hard-shell glasses case from my older son’s room, (his prescription lenses always come with a new case) and have been very deliberate about where they’re kept and how they’re treated.

They’re still in perfect condition.

My neighbors recently hosted a lovely get together, and one of the partygoers got annoyed when her sister was rough housing and jostled her glasses. (Yes, “lovely get together and “rough housing” coexist in my world.)

“Careful with my $700 glasses” she screamed.

She then explained that her glasses had transition lenses, invisible bifocals and were featherweight. So yes, I can understand why she would want to treat them like the crown-freaking-jewels.

But the financial cost of your belongings should not guide how well you treat them. Some of my favorite household belongings were either free or damned close to it! Does that mean I should treat them poorly?

Hell, no!

William Morris’ quote of “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” comes to mind with this situation. Because there is nothing useful or beautiful of having multiple versions of a single item simply because they were cheap.

Whether your stuff cost $1, $700 or even $7000 dollars it still had to be manufactured from raw materials and will someday break beyond repair. Buying multiple versions of something just because it was cheap not only clutters your home but defeats the purpose.

Respect your belongings. All of them.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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There’s not much that can put me in a guaranteed happy mood like a productive day of thrifting. Add to that, an afternoon spent with my mother and I’m in nirvana.

How happy?

As happy as my under-sink bag holder with recently added googly-eyes!

Wow, that’s happy!

happy bags

When I thrift, I keep an eye out for things my family needs, but I also scour the shops for drastically underpriced items that I can resell for the ol’ college fund. I keep in mind what’s on trend at the moment, like midcentury furnishings.

Check out this midcentury stereo console! Unfortunately, it was priced at $90, which is waaaaay too much for the likes of me.

closed midcentury console

Even though it was pristine. Ooh, ahh . . . .

open console

This midcentury Bassett brand dresser was priced at $65, (although everything that day was 50%-off, so it was actually $32.50!) I wavered for at least a good half an hour on this one and finally left it at the shop. Why? Because the the top surface was a laminate, and I have lost my reselling confidence over being unable to sell my drop-leaf table that I was sure would be an easy sale. (It’s been on my front porch once December, and puts me in a decidedly unhappy mood.)

Update: I just now sold the midcentury table! It was only for $5 more than I paid for it, but I had given up all hope. Yay!

I’ve actually been keeping an eye out for this kind of wide-rather-than-tall dresser for our bedroom, and probably should have bought this as a placeholder, but I couldn’t get over the laminate top. (The rest was solid wood and the drawers had lovely dovetailing, so the quality was otherwise excellent.)

My Instagram followers were in favor of the purchase.

midcentury bargain

I might have loaded up the back of the minivan with the dresser if it weren’t for these vintage Lane lacquer and brass nightstands. So glam, so Halston-y, almost a Tony Montana “Say hello to my little friend” vibe. And priced at $15 apiece, I was unable to resist. I did a quick internet search and saw that someone was selling this exact same set on eBay for $750! So yes, I bought them.

I now have them up on Craigslist, so we’ll see what happens. (Knowing my recent luck, I may be owning these for awhile.)

lane nightstands

The one purchase I made this day for me was this perfect vintage velvet love seat which set me back a whopping $30! I’ve been keeping an eye out for years for a small couch for our downstairs bedroom/TV room. It had only been comfortably seating three people, (which was a never ending problem for a family of four.)

Here’s what I love about this love seat:

  • The gold velvet with chocolate brown piping looks great with the rest of my velvet furnishings.
  • Sitting on a love seat with a teenage boy makes them accidentally snuggle with their mother.
  • The slim lines are both pleasing to the eye, and help the piece not take up too much space.
  • It was $30, people! (And my mother paid for it.)

The addition of this purchase completed the shop-until-your-minivan-is-full afternoon, and is still filling me with happiness. (And before you ask, I spent a couple of hours shampooing the love seat with my Bissell rug shampooer; and yes, I thoroughly inspected it for bedbugs.)

Loveseat

I love this love seat so much, I might even put a pair of googly-eyes on it!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 20 comments }

A Never Ending Quest For Frugal Hacks

by Katy on February 27, 2014 · 31 comments


Ponytail holder shopping

As a frugality writer and longtime cheap-o lady frugalista, you’d think I would eventually reach a saturation point where there’d be nothing new to learn. Luckily, such is not the case. Yes, it comes in fits and spurts, but there are always new frugal hacks to incorporate into my daily life.

Just recently I figured these these new tricks:

  • As the mother of boys/young men/testosterone bags I am the sole keeper of the feminine way. I mostly wear my hair down, but occasionally do put it up. I was doing fine with two elastic ponytail holders until I suddenly had none. Inspired by Bea from Zero Waste Home, I decided to move past the eww factor and shop from the turf at my son’s soccer field. (A rich supply of ponytail holders, if ever there was one.)  I am now the proud owner of a single functional ponytail holder. And nothing had to be bought, manufactured, packaged or thrown away.
  • I recently washed our bed pillows using a Pinterest tutorial, (I wasn’t pleased with the results, so I’m not sharing the link) which included putting sock covered tennis balls in the dryer. I liked how the tennis balls give the laundry an extra bounce of movement in the dryer, so I’m now using them for each and every load. The clothes seem to be drying faster, and I finally found a use for my father’s spent tennis balls plus those sad single socks. (New idea . . . a match.com site for socks that are missing their mates!)
  • I am a prolific tea drinker, and am very fussy about the strength. (Too strong and it might as well be coffee, too weak and what’s the point?) However, I recently picked up an adorable small $2 vintage teapot (looks a bit like a small Brown Betty) which is the perfect size for two cups of tea. Actually, it’s the perfect size for 2-1/2 cups of tea, yet is still the perfect strength! People, that is a free half cup of tea! Multiply that by 365 and that’s 182 free cups of tea per year! (Math, yo!) And since my kids also drink tea, the savings are actually worth writing home about.

Have you recently incorporated any new frugal hacks into your life? Please share in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 31 comments }


If you’re in the Portland area on Thursday the 27th and are looking for an enjoyable evening, I highly recommend a certain reading at the Powell’s on Hawthorne by a certain person who happens to be my father. He’ll be reading from The Parable of You, (Propellor Books) his new collection of short stories.

Tony Wolk reading

And make sure to introduce yourself, I’d love to meet you!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 3 comments }


  1. I took my older son and one of our former Japanese exchange students to go hear my sister’s band The Moonshine last night. It was a special free gig that fit perfectly into our schedule, and the owner told us that our non-alcoholic drinks “Were on the house!” Sweet!
  2. I read on Pinterest that you can put your vacuum cleaner filter through the dishwasher. I was a bit skeptical, but since I’ve simply been cleaning ours with a rubba-scrubba since 2001, I thought I’d give it a try. And it worked great, and looks as good as new! And since a new filter costs $15, this was a great discovery! (Note, I did not wash any dishes with the same load.)
  3. Sunday was a very busy day with soccer and errands. Not to mention that I was still ridiculously exhausted from having driven nine hours the previous day. It would have been sooo easy to order takeout for dinner, but instead I pulled a pan of restuffed potatoes from the freezer and all was well. I gave last week’s Katy a little thank you, perhaps even out loud.
  4. I took a pot of red pepper hummus back to New Season’s for a refund. The texture had been weirdly pasty and everyone (including me) refused to eat it. Yes, it had been bought for Super Bowl Sunday, but that made no difference. I left with $3.50 in hand, which I promptly popped into the boys’ college fund.
  5. I did not buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 20 comments }


My 15-year-old son and I just had a very interesting experience volunteering for his annual school auction. As a parent of a two high schoolers, I was surprised at how few people I recognized at a school event for a program my kids have been attending for 13 long years. (I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, as it is the elementary school parents who make up the majority of involved parents.) We were at the event facility from 5 P.M. until 11 P.M. on Friday, and spent a good three hours of that time working as busboys. (The public school support organization kept expenses down by not hiring wait staff.) We carried plates, scraped leftover food into the garbage and worked up a sweat in the process.

As much as I didn’t know the current cohort of grade school parents, they also didn’t know me. I think a lot of them assumed I was a simple cater-waiter. I would estimate that a quarter of them were very dismissive to my statement of “If you’re done with your plate, I can take it away” which I found to be very telling. They would barely respond to me, and were certainly not helpful in maybe grabbing their neighbor’s empty plate to lend a hand. By comparison, others would reach for plates that were out of my reach and then thank me.

I’ve heard that you can tell a lot about a person from how they treat waiters.

It got me thinking about how for a supposedly egalitarian society, The United States very much has societal levels that that are both glaring and subtle. The 99% vs. 1% has received a lot of attention over the past few years, but that 99% is split into endless categories. Race, education level, attractiveness and nationality all affect how we are perceived in this world. And as a white, generally attractive and well educated woman, it’s not part of my daily thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, as I wasn’t upset or angry with the experience. I just considered it to be an interesting point to ponder.

As an experienced labor and delivery nurse, I am used to being a source of important information, with people hanging on my every word. And as a successful blogger, I am used to people respecting and admiring what I do. (As the parent to two teenage boys, I am used to being mocked and ignored, but I take that with a grain of salt.) I’m not used to people barely acknowledging my presence.

Like the show Undercover Boss, where corporate CEO’s take on lowly roles within their own company to get a real sense of how their organizations are actually functioning. Let’s just call it “Undercover Katy.”

How is this related to non-consumerism?

I am privileged.

No I’m not wealthy, but I was raised in a middle class home where I always knew I would go to college. I live in a safe and community oriented neighborhood where I can walk to two excellent grocery stores, and I can trust that my stable neighbors can be trusted. Yes, we had to buy a disgusting fixer-upper to make this happen, but we did. And I never give a second thought to the reliability of my transportation.

And I usually take that for granted.

My non-consumerism relies heavily on the community I live in. If I were in more of a low income area, my food shopping options would likely be limited, and our safety would not be a given. I have opportunities that many other Americans do not.

I’ve run three food stamp challenges over the past few years, and there are always a few readers who respond with judgment about how real food stamp recipients should be living their lives. They choose to ignore how a person’s inherent privilege gives them advantages that we’re often not even aware of.

So thank you, fellow parents for reminding me to appreciate the privilege that makes my daily life both easy and safe.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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My friend Lise is working on a project that involves photographing hard liquor in the state of Washington. Seriously. So she roped me into going with her by promising me some tasty Washington state thrifting.

First we had to look at booze. And yes, that is a $41.99 jar of moonshine soaked maraschino cherries in the background. (Who are these marketed to? Hillbillies with a hankering’ for a sundae?!)

Boozy cherries

Although I bought hardly anything, I did see spy a few thrifty goodies. I really enjoyed this vintage ceramic garlic holder. It’s hard to see in this photo, but his cap reads “Garlic.”

I also kind of liked this “Nobody’s Perfect” needlepoint piece. Although I do feel it was a lost opportunity for an old fashioned “Pobody’s Nerfect.”

So much funnier.

Our next stop was the Value Village across town.

The two of walked in and immediately spotted this entire rack of nylon patchwork denim printed vests. We both shed our outer lays and posed for multiple photos. Not sure how many people were staring at us, but it was worth any potential embarrassment as these vests were ah-mazing!

This photo is making me laugh really hard.

I was tempted by this $9.99 midcentury nightstand, but the wood was super dried out, and not the highest of quality.  I still have a number of Goodwill items that have yet to sell, so I’m holding off from buying for resell until I unload what I already have.

However, with comments like “You left it?!?”  and  “Go back!”  my Instagram followers felt that I made the wrong decision on this one.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 8.23.26 PM

The one purchase that required zero deliberation was this $6.99 pair of size-8 Badgley Mischka peep toe satin and rhinestone bridal pumps. Since these sell on Zappos for $225, this was a no brainer. I will put these up on eBay for some lucky bride. I am partial to Birkenstocks, Danskos and Keens, but then again . . . I’m an girlie outlier.

And no trip to Goodwill would be complete without obligatory florist-marble-glued-onto-stuff. I beg of you, pleeeeeaase stop creating this craft. It is ugly, it has always been ugly and it will always be ugly.

Ugggggllllly!

These horrible flattened marbles are clown expectorate. Think of it as a splatter pattern from a clown sneeze.

florist marble crap

No!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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1) I have to drive a mini-van full of boys down to Grants Pass and back for a soccer game this weekend. Because it’s 4-1/2 hours each way, I loaded up on DVD’s of movies and TV shows from the library. (My mini-van has a built-in DVD player that we use so rarely that I thought it didn’t work anymore.)

2) I spent all day Tuesday in the kitchen prepping meals and filling the fridge and freezer with frugal and easily accessible food. Because I cook almost completely from scratch it can take awhile to get dinner on the table, which is a problem for busy evenings or when inspiration fails me. The sad thing is that I accomplished all this when I normally would have been watching evening TV.

Here’s what I cooked and prepped:

  • One batch of kale pesto.
  • Chopped a huge amount of garlic in the Cuisinart.
  • Three casserole dishes of restuffed potatoes.
  • Sautéed a pan of diced potatoes for breakfast burritos.
  • A batch of oatmeal cookie dough. (I bake cookies a dozen at a time so they can be added to school lunches or for treats. This way they don’t get snarfed down immediately.)
  • Roasted a chicken which had been defrosting in the fridge for a few days.
  • Cooked up a batch of chicken soup using the leftover clingy bits from a rotisserie chicken.
  • Washed and chopped a couple heads of broccoli.

3) I didn’t have anything good to bring for my work lunch, so I just threw some bulk quick cooking oatmeal and brown sugar in a bag. (I also threw in an apple and a yogurt I got for free.) The meal was filling and healthy enough to keep me from having to buy food in the hospital cafeteria.

4) I took my kids to see The Lego Movie on Monday with some free passes that I’d been holding onto for a looong time. I made sure to feed them a nice filling meal before we left the house so they wouldn’t beg for snacks.

5)  My 15-year-old younger son just got his driving learner’s permit yesterday. My plan is to have to drive on this permit a good long time before becoming a licensed driver. No reason to hike up our insurance premiums prematurely. (In case you were wondering, my 18-year-old son has zero interest in learning to drive so far.)

Now your turn. What frugal activities have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 22 comments }

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